Reviews: Bambi II

Disney Still Need Him, Disney Still Feed Him, When He\'s Sixty Four

Disney sequels tend to have a rather cringeworthy status with fans, tending to be cheap cash ins of the nostalgic original films with none of their charm and elegance. Obviously when a sequel to the 1942 Bambi was announced, there were some wary reactions.

There is a key difference with this one however, and that's blatant effort. Bambi II has all the budget, elegance and subtlety of a proper cinema film (to the point it was one in regions such as Europe), and also cleverly serves as a companion piece to the original's story.

The film is an Interquel that charts the big gap in continuity between the death of Bambi's mother and his growth into adulthood. While one could expect this to be the perfect direction for Disney's marketing since it means they can utilise the cuter fawn Bambi (how much merchandise do you see of adult Bambi?) the writers actually make clever use of it, and use it to add Character Development between the title character and his mysterious father, The Great Prince.

While the "parent issues" plot is a predictable one, especially with the sequels, it's done with proper nuance that a lot of examples lack. There isn't actually much impudent rebellion and "sticking it to the old man and his overbearing rules" (one reason The Lion King II: Simba's Pride worn thin). Besides one slightly melodramatic clash when things reach boiling point, the characters' dynamic remains more along the lines of a reserved but concerning Odd Couple pairing. Bambi remains a naive, demure little fawn who just wants to impress his father, who while genuinely caring for his son, hides in a load of inner demons and has his mysterious, stoic characterisation of the first film Deconstructed in it's awkwardness dealing with his emotional son.

In terms of cosmetics, the film looks lovely. It genuinely tries to capture the elegance of the forest landscapes the original did. It just doesn't have the same feel it had. The Interquel focuses more primarily on the cutesy cartoon animal antics this time round, and while the animation and music is lovely, it's obviously far more contemporary (the most glaring cases being the far vaster banter as well as country songs over the majestic choir songs of the first). It never has the same ambience of "Little April Showers" or quite the same chilling whiplash as the death of Bambi's mom or the hysterical quill. You have to give it credit, it damn well tries and it still has a palpable amount of soul and intensity to it, it's just not the art piece the first is.

If you want a true remake of what the original 1942 film stood for, you'll be disappointed. If you want a charming contemporary story featuring the Bambi cast, you'll likely be surprisingly satisfied. Despite being a cash cow from a marketing standpoint, the creative team made it into a genuine hark back to the earnest, lush looking storytelling of their Renaissance era while Disney mainstream films themselves were undergoing a Dork Age.
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